AR High School Rejects Gay Student's Yearbook Profile

SHERIDAN, AR -- A civil rights organization is now involved with the fight of an openly gay Sheridan High School student trying to get his profile back in the yearbook.

The president of the Human Rights Campaign wrote the school's superintendent and principal asking them to reverse their decision - writing, in part, "Regardless of print deadlines, it would be unconscionable to release the yearbook with the omission of Taylor's well-deserved profile."

17-year-old Taylor Ellis came out on social media last year.

But after a student wrote his story for a yearbook article, Ellis says the principal told him it could lead to problems with bullying.

Ellis said, "He was thinking it was too personal for the yearbook, but I don't think it was personal. There wasn't too much in it. She (the writer) could've asked a lot more personal things."

The school's superintendent never returned our calls.

Click here to read the Human Rights Campaign's letter to school administrators.

There is a state law protecting students freedom of expression in student publications. It's called the Arkansas Student Publications Act.

Here's a copy of the full profile, removed from the Sheridan High School yearbook: 

"I use to be scared to say that I'm gay," Taylor Ellis, junior, said. "It's not fun keeping secrets; after I told everyone, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders."
Ellis's "secret" was first shared in the summer of 2012, with his friend Joelle Curry, junior, and his mother, Lynn Tiley.
"I wasn't surprised at all," Tiley said. "I don't care because he's my son, and I know he's happier."
Ellis, who said he struggles with clinical depression, had just recently stopped taking his medication before telling his family.
"I was going crazy, just wanting to tell people after I stopped taking them," Ellis said.
However, Ellis waited until spring break of 2013 to tell the rest of his peers; he did so through the social media site, Instagram.
"I put it in my bio, and hashtagged pictures," Ellis said. "When people would ask me about it, I just said 'yes I am,' and that was that."
Although the thought of coming out, and the repercussions of doing so, frightened Ellis at first, he found that most of the student body, as well as the teachers, were very accepting of him.
"I wrote about it in Mrs. Williams class; it was when I first came out," Ellis said. "She told me she was glad I shared that with her. We had a stronger bond after that, I think."
"He had poured himself into it," Summer Williams, sophomore English teacher, said. "It was one of the best ones I read. I was just so proud of his openness, and his honesty. It was a risk; sharing that with his classmates, but they were very accepting. It was good for him. I could tell he felt better after writing about it."
Ellis found that while people do not treat him with disrespect, some do seem to be more distant.
"Some guys are more reserved around me now," Ellis said. "But not a lot of people have been mean about it, thank God. I'm actually in a good situation. I'm very lucky."

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